From Fri Mar 25 07:00:49 2005
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 13:03:57 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [NYTr] Amnesty's Intl's Disinformation
Article: 207619
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Amnesty's Intl's Disinformation

By Joan Malerich, 22 March 2005

After reading the deceitful and unsubstantiated Amnesty International press release on Cuba, I did some research on Amnesty, which is given below. Also, Sunday, March 20, I stood in front of their meeting location with a sign saying “Stop Amnesty International from Misrepresenting Cuba.” One lady came out to speak with me. She treated me well, but she had absolutely no clue about the truth and reality of Cuba nor anything about Amnesty's report. She did ask me for three major points/issues with which I was concerned and took these issues back to the group. I think it would be great if others would protest in front of Amnesty meeting places and try to induce members to enter a discussion—one based on facts. Stay on your turf, if possible. Let them come to where you are instead of going into their meeting. Another suggestion is to send this informaton out to as many others as is possible.

Peace, hope, justice for ALL

Joan Malerich
St. Paul, MN

Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) is “a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.” [1] (

Table of contents

1 About AI

2 Criticism & AI's Contributions to Disinformation

2.1 Assessment by a former AI-USA board member

2.2 Participation in propaganda campaign leading up to the 1991 Gulf War

2.3 Duped Again?

2.4 Buying Humanitarian Bombing?

2.5 Business Ethics?

2.6 Film Festival Censorship (2003)

2.7 AI pulls out of UNESCO meeting

2.8 Not Challenging Apartheid

2.9 Group Manipulation

2.10 Odd Bedfellows

2.11 Double Standards

2.12 Right on time selective Human Rights reports

3 Further Reading

4 Staff or Directors

5 Directors and Personnel

5.1 International Secretariat

5.2 AI USA

5.3 Business Ethics Directors

5.4 Staff (AI International section)

6 PR companies working for AI

7 Contact

7.1 In the United States

7.2 International Secretariat

About AI

From AI's website (

Criticism & AI's Contributions to Disinformation

Assessment by a former AI-USA board member

Prof. Francis A. Boyle (Professor of International Law, Univ. of Illinois, Champaign) from interview with Dennis Bernstein (

“Amnesty International is primarily motivated not by human rights but by publicity. Second comes money. Third comes getting more members. Fourth, internal turf battles. And then finally, human rights, genuine human rights concerns. To be sure, if you are dealing with a human rights situation in a country that is at odds with the United States or Britain, it gets an awful lot of attention, resources, man and womanpower, publicity, you name it, they can throw whatever they want at that. But if it's dealing with violations of human rights by the United States, Britain, Israel, then it's like pulling teeth to get them to really do something on the situation. They might, very reluctantly and after an enormous amount of internal fightings and battles and pressures, you name it. But you know, it's not like the official enemies list.”

Participation in propaganda campaign leading up to the 1991 Gulf War

There were some curious episodes in the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War. Hill & Knowlton launched a major propaganda campaign on behalf of the Kuwaiti royal family ( t) to change US citizens attitudes about a possible US intervention in Kuwait. Part of this campaign produced the throwing the babies out of the incubators hoax presented by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in the US. As part of this propaganda campaign President Bush (Senior) appeared on national TV holding a copy of AIs press release pertaining to the incubator story. It was portrayed as further proof of the incident.

… Of course the worst instance is well known, and that's the Kuwaiti dead babies report. I was on the AI USA board at that time, it was the late Fall of 1990 and, as you know, we were on the verge of going to war. There was going to be a debate coming up in the United States Congress, and a vote. And at the end of November or so, mid-November, since I was a board member, I got a pre-publication copy of the Amnesty report on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So I immediately read through this report and it was sloppy, it was inaccurate even its statement of applicable law. It did not seem to me that it had gone through the normal quality control process.

As for the allegation about the Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and putting them on the floor of the hospital where they did, I didn’t know if that was true or not, but it certainly sounded very sensationalist to me. And as a result of that, I made an effort to hold that report back for further review, on those grounds that I gave to you. And indeed I also enlisted a fellow board member for the same reason, and he and I both tried, and I made the point, even if this story about the dead babies is true, it's completely sensationalist, and it is simply going to be used in the United States to monger for war, and could turn the tide in favor of war. And so you know, we really need to pull back on this, further review, more study.

They wouldn’t do it. It was clear it was on the fast track there in London. This was not AI USA, this was in London. And it had been put on the fast track, they were ramming it through. They didn’t care. Finally, I said look, let us at least put out an Errata report to accompany it on those aspects that are clearly wrong. They refused to do that either. They then put the report out, and you know what a terrible impact that had in terms of war propaganda. Of the six votes in the United States Senate that passed the resolution to go to war, several of those senators said that they were influenced by the Amnesty report. Now I want to make it clear this was not a job by Amnesty International but by London, and what happened then, when the war started, at the next AI USA board meeting, I demanded an investigation. By then it had come out that this was Kuwaiti propaganda put together by the PR firm, Hill

& Knowlton, and I demanded an investigation. Absolutely nothing happened. There was never an investigation, there was total stonewalling coming out of London. They refused ever to admit that they did anything wrong. There has never been an explanation, there has never been an apology. It's down the memory hole like 1984 and Orwell. My conclusion was that a high-level official of Amnesty International at that time, whom I will not name, was a British intelligence agent. Moreover, my fellow board member, who also investigated this independently of me, reached the exact same conclusion. So certainly when I am dealing with people who want to work with Amnesty in London, I just tell them, “Look, just understand, they’re penetrated by intelligence agents, U.K., maybe U.S., I don’t know, but you certainly can’t trust them.”

—Prof. Francis Boyle, Interview with Dennis Bernstein (, CovertAction Quarterly Number 73 Summer 2002, pp. 9-12, 27.

Duped Again?

During the Balkan wars, AI seems to have pushed yet another propaganda piece used to justify the bombing of Serbia, and to assist Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims. From Diana Johnstone's Fool's Crusade, Pluto Press 2002, p. 81:

Regardless of such discrepancies, Cigelj became a feminist heroine. In June 1993, she was honored by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights “for outstanding contributions to international women's rights” and the Minneapolis Star Tribune identified her as a “Bosnian Muslim victim”. In 1996, she was featured in a documentary film, “Calling the Ghosts: A Story of Rape, War and Women”, launched by Human Rights Watch in June 1996 at its annual film festival and distributed by Women Make Movies. Amnesty International thereafter sponsored a 25-city U.S. tour. The promotional blurb stated “Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, childhood friends and legal professionals, lived the lives of ordinary women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, until one day their neighbors became their tormentors. This film documents mass rapes as a wartime tactic, focusing on these two survivors, whose personal struggles transform into a larger fight for justice against the backdrop of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.” Two women, one of them a professional propagandist for the Tudjman regime, became documentary evidence for “mass rapes as a wartime tactic”. The film was shown on university campuses as part of programs on Yugoslavia with such celebrities as General Wesley K. Clark, Bosnian ambassador to the UN Muhamed Sacirbey, and Bianca Jagger.

A political activist such as Cigelj, working for the propaganda agency of one of the parties to the conflict, and who tells an inconsistent story, cannot be considered the most reliable witness. There was naiveti on the part of the women's groups, and sloppiness on the part of the journalists, to accept without question such a partisan source.

NB: Amnesty has not issued an apology for playing along in this deception. Furthermore, at the time there were grave doubts about Cigelj's accounts given the mounting inconsistencies. No bar for an AI sponsored 25-city tour of the US.

Buying Humanitarian Bombing?

In 1999, AI did not reject and played along when State Dept. officials proposed the “humanitarian bombing of Serbia”.

Business Ethics?

In 1991, AI set up a Amnesty Business Group ( It was meant to monitor human rights observance by corporations. However, the curious thing is that it chose Sir Geoffrey Chandler to head this unit. NB: Chandler was a Shell company director, and the head of the Sustainability Council ( The second curious aspect of this AI unit is the issuance of a report about a controversial oil pipeline. It is quoted as follows on its website: “Launch of Human Rights on the Line Report ( into the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project and the Host Government Agreement between BP and the Turkish Government.” Note that this pipeline was beset by controversy because BP overlooked the rights and interests of all the people in the path of the pipeline.

Film Festival Censorship (2003)

AI sponsors an annual film festival focused on human rights issues. During its 2003 festival it banned the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised ( under dubious circumstances. This is what Macdonald Stainsby had to say about it:

“Beginning Thursday, November 6th until Sunday the 9th, Amnesty International held their annual film festival on Human Rights in Canada. The listings were much of the usual fare for AI: Films on Tibet, Burma, Pinochet's 1973 coup in Chile, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, even a film on Israel's secret nuclear weapons program. The festival had one other film scheduled to be the last one shown. That film had been broadcast on the CBC's ‘Passionate Eye’ program (twice). It had won more awards than any other film on the list of films to be put on screen at the film festival. It has been shown across Europe, including the BBC. It was removed two days before the festival, and AI still hasn’t clarified why or who convinced them to do this. The film is “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, and citing a series of contradictory reasons, the film was banned from the festival by Amnesty International, after it had already been booked and listed in all of the AI programs.”

“A controversy immediately ensued, and it was Venezuelans who support the film who first noticed that the very people from Venezuela that the film exposed as human rights violators had launched a campaign against it globally, wherever people might see it. Don Wright, local region (BC Yukon) coordinator of AI, was interviewed on ‘Democracy Now’, a radio program in New York run on the station Pacifica. There, the arguments given were (quote): “…when we choose films we strive to choose films that are nonpartisan and nonpolitical to reflect the mandate of our organization.” [2] ( de=thread&tid=25) That is a rather bizarre statement, to say the least, for an organization dealing with human rights and coming from a film festival that included topics such as a successful coup in Chile and discussions of Israeli nuclear programs. Perhaps nuclear weapons in the Middle East and military coups in South America are non-political and failed coups in South America are? I guess I’m missing something here. And nonpartisan, well—I guess the Chinese government will be invited to talk on why it maintains sovereignty over Tibet next year, no doubt that we need balance here.”

—Macdonald Stainsby, After the Censorship by Amnesty International, we Need to See The Revolution Will Not Be Televised More Than Ever (,, Nov. 12, 2003.

There is more information on this controversy on the website ( of the producer of the film. NB: what appears now on the website is an abridged version of the long exchange between AI and the producer; that has now been removed.

AI pulls out of UNESCO meeting

On May 17, 2004, AI pulled out of a UNESCO meeting. UNESCO refused to translate and publish AI International Executive Chair's article/statement. See details here ( _of_UNESCO_meeting). NB: Hoffman and Schulz have made a number of remarks indicating that AI will qualify its defense of human rights during the “war on terror”. It is not clear where all this is going, but there are many questions. See John Pilger's article about this. It is these issues that may have had a bearing on the UNESCO squabble.

Not Challenging Apartheid

Dennis Bernstein: Now, having said that about these connections between the U.S., British and Amnesty International foreign policy

Francis Boyle: Sure, you'll see a pretty good coincidence of the enemies that Amnesty International goes after and the interests of both the United States and British governments. Lets take an older example apartheid in South Africa under the former criminal regime in South Africa. Amnesty International refused adamantly to condemn apartheid in South Africa. Despite my best efforts while I was on the board, and other board members, they would not do it. They are the only human rights organization in the entire world to have refused to condemn apartheid in South Africa. Now they can give you some cock-and-bull theory about why they wouldnt do this. But the bottom line was that the biggest supporter, economic and political supporter of the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa was the British government, followed by the United States government. And so no matter how hard we tried, no matter what we did, they would not condemn apartheid in South Africa. Now I just mention that as one among many examples.

—Prof. Francis Boyle, Interview with Dennis Bernstein (, CovertAction Quarterly Number 73 Summer 2002, pp. 9-12, 27.

Group Manipulation

Several AI chapters connected with universities in the U.S. have been taken over by groups with their own agenda. Their interest is to block criticism of certain countries, and to create a false impression that AI favors their position. There have been instances where manipulators sent “news releases” using AI letterhead (of the local group) to push their agenda. On Oct. 2002, AI-London stated that it is not their business to censor these groups (statement by Donatella Rovera when she was asked about this).

Odd Bedfellows

In December 10, 2003 the following event was co-hosted by AI:

Catastrophe in Chechnya: Escaping the Quagmire

With nearly 250 persons in attendance and presentations by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Ruud Lubbers, the conference was the largest event of its kind dedicated solely to Chechnya to be held in Washington DC.

Hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and co-sponsored by The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, the Jamestown Foundation, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, this event promises to be of great potential significance in articulating a new American attitude toward Russo-Chechen conflict.

Why is AI co-sponsoring this event? NB: all the other co-sponsors are right-wing and dubious organizations.[3] (

Double Standards

In July 2, 2004, AI called for the suspension of weapons sales to Sudan. On February 16, 2005 it called for a suspension of weapons sales to Nepal. However, although AI has shown that while it is willing to issue such calls regarding several countries, it is not willing to request an embargo of weapons sales to Israel. Donatella Rovera, the chief researcher on Israel-Palestine offered the following explanation:

“The situations in Sudan and in Israel-Occupied Territories are quite different and different norms of international law apply, which do not make it possible to call for an arms embargos on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are under Israeli military occupation (not the case for the Darfour region in Sudan). Hence, certain provisions of international humanitarian law, known as the laws of war (notably the 1907 Hague Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention) apply in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (and not in the Darfour region).” (email communication July 5, 2004).

AI is couching its double standards in dubious legalese, but consider what Prof. Francis Boyle (Professor of International Law at Univ. of Illinois Champaign) has to say about Rovera's statement:

This is total gibberish. When I was on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA near the end of my second term in 1990-92, we received the authority to call for an arms embargo against major human rights violators, which Israel clearly qualified for at the time and still does—even under United States domestic law. Of course no one at AI was going to do so because pro-Israel supporters were major funders of Amnesty International USA, which in turn was a major funder of Amnesty International in London. He who pays the piper calls the tune—especially at AIUSA Headquarters in New York and at AI Headquarters in London.[4] (

Right on time selective Human Rights reports

On March 9, 2005, AI released a human rights report on the abuse of Kurdish human rights in Syria [5] ( What is odd about the report is:

1. Impecable timing. The report appears at the time the U.S. and Israel are exerting massive pressure on Syria.

2. Selectivity about Kurds. Although Kurds reside in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, the report only deals with human rights violations in Syria. At present, according to KHRP, far more systematic violations of Kurdish human rights are occuring in Iraq and Turkey than in Syria, but AI studiously ignores what is happening here.

Further Reading

To properly appreciate AI as an institution, one must read the following articles:

Nabeel Abraham, et al.; International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine Question
(, Middle East Report (MERIP), Vol. 18, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1988, pp. 12—20. The article reviews the history and the coverage of Palestinian human rights by ten different organizations—one of them is AI. It clearly indicates that several organizations were biased. It is a seminal article in the analysis of what is now called “the politics of human rights.”

Nabeel Abraham, Torture, Anyone?
(, Lies of Our Times, May 1992, pp. 2—4. Article discusses the reticence of several human rights groups in mentioning (let alone covering) Israeli torture practices. AI took decades before it finally covered it, and even so, the coverage has been sparse. AI was forced to cover the issue because it appeared in a reputable source and in detail. If the Sunday Times could cover it, then why was AI silent?

Dennis Bernstein's interview
( with Prof. Francis Boyle, CAQ, Summer 2002. NB: Boyle is a professor of international law at Univ. of Illinois, a former AI-USA board member, and someone who threatened to sue AI-USA over its biased coverage.

Alexander Cockburn, How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?
( 098.html), CounterPunch newsletter, April 1-15, 1999. Discusses how several human rights organizations fell into line about the bombing of Serbia.

Diana Johnstone, Fool's Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, Pluto Press 2002.
Contains a good discussion of the propaganda campaign used to launch the wars in the Balkans. The “rape camps” were the foremost campaign, and AI had a role in propagating it.

Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity, Pluto Press 2004.
This book contains several examples of AI's dubious way of defending “human rights”. In particular, the examples discussed deal with (1) the US-Iraq war 2003; (2) War in the Balkans.

Paul de Rooij, AI: Say It Isn’t So
(, CounterPunch, Oct. 31, 2002.

Paul de Rooij, AI: The Case of a Rape Foretold
(, CounterPunch, Nov. 26, 2003.

Paul de Rooij, AI: A false beacon?
(, CounterPunch, Oct. 13, 2004. This article contains a reading list that is pertinent to a critical understanding of AI.

Paul de Rooij, Ted Honderich: A Philosopher in the Trenches
(, CounterPunch, Dec. 4, 2002. An interview with Honderich primarily dealing with violence and justifications of violence. However, the interview addresses various aspects of AI's position on human rights.

Reading list ( of articles dealing with the “Politics of Human Rights”.

Staff or Directors

Comment: It is very difficult to find the list of names of the international executive group and other officers of AI.

Directors and Personnel

International Secretariat


Business Ethics Directors

Staff (AI International section)

PR companies working for AI


In the United States
Telephone +1 212 807 8400
Fax +1 212 463 9193\1 212 627 1451
Address 322 8th Avenue
New York, NY 1001

International Secretariat
Telephone +44-20-74135500
Fax +44-20-79561157
Address 1 Easton Street

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